Wishing You A Silent Night

This Christmas season I worked on a few Christmas Songs. Some were more difficult than others. I’ve Always loved Silent Night since I was a child.

My Christmas wish for the world is that we will have Peace on Earth and Many Silent Nights.

https://youtu.be/WF6jaz26k-Y

Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza and Happy New Year!! 2019 is going to be awesome!!

Keep dreaming and don’t give up because your dreams are waiting for you. 😘😘😘

Why Is Biodiversity Important? Who Cares?

Originally Published on GlobalIssues.org on January 19, 2014 By Anup Shah

Why Is Biodiversity Important Who Cares

At least 40 per cent of the world’s economy and 80 per cent of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources. In addition, the richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development, and adaptive responses to such new challenges as climate change.

The Convention about Life on Earth, Convention on Biodiversity web site.

What is Biodiversity?

The variety of life on Earth, its biological diversity is commonly referred to as biodiversity.

The number of species of plants, animals, and microorganisms, the enormous diversity of genes in these species, the different ecosystems on the planet, such as deserts, rainforests and coral reefs are all part of a biologically diverse Earth.

Appropriate conservation and sustainable development strategies attempt to recognize this as being integral to any approach to preserving biodiversity. Almost all cultures have their roots in our biological diversity in some way or form.

Declining biodiversity is therefore a concern for many reasons.

Why is Biodiversity Important?

Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, all have an important role to play.

For example,

A larger number of plant species means a greater variety of crops
Greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms
Healthy ecosystems can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters.

And so, while we dominate this planet, we still need to preserve the diversity in wildlife.

A healthy biodiversity offers many natural services

Why Is Biodiversity Important Who Cares_2

A healthy biodiversity provides a number of natural services for everyone:

  • Ecosystem services, such as
  • Protection of water resources
  • Soils formation and protection
  • Nutrient storage and recycling
  • Pollution breakdown and absorption
  • Contribution to climate stability
  • Maintenance of ecosystems
  • Recovery from unpredictable events
  • Biological resources, such as
  • Food
  • Medicinal resources and pharmaceutical drugs
  • Wood products
  • Ornamental plants
  • Breeding stocks, population reservoirs
  • Future resources
  • Diversity in genes, species and ecosystems
  • Social benefits, such as
  • Research, education and monitoring
  • Recreation and tourism
  • Cultural values
Why Is Biodiversity Important Who Cares_4

Ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest are rich in diversity. Deforestation threatens many species such as the giant leaf frog, shown here. (Images source: Wikipedia)

That is quite a lot of services we get for free!

The cost of replacing these (if possible) would be extremely expensive. It therefore makes economic and development sense to move towards sustainability.

A report from Nature magazine also explains that genetic diversity helps to prevent the chances of extinction in the wild (and claims to have shown proof of this).

To prevent the well known and well documented problems of genetic defects caused by in-breeding, species need a variety of genes to ensure successful survival. Without this, the chances of extinction increases.

And as we start destroying, reducing and isolating habitats, the chances for interaction from species with a large gene pool decreases.

Species depend on each other

While there might be “survival of the fittest” within a given species, each species depends on the services provided by other species to ensure survival. It is a type of cooperation based on mutual survival and is often what a “balanced ecosystem” refers to.

Why Is Biodiversity Important Who Cares_5

Soil, bacteria, plants; the Nitrogen Cycle

The relationship between soil, plants, bacteria and other life is also referred to as the nitrogen cycle:

As an example, consider all the species of animals and organisms involved in a simple field used in agriculture. As summarized from Vandana Shiva, Stolen Harvest (South End Press, 2000), pp 61–62:

  • Crop byproducts feed cattle
  • Cattle waste feeds the soil that nourish the crops
  • Crops, as well as yielding grain also yield straw
  • Straw provides organic matter and fodder
  • Crops are therefore food sources for humans and animals
  • Soil organisms also benefit from crops
  • Bacteria feed on the cellulose fibers of straw that farmers return to the soil
  • Amoebas feed on bacteria making lignite fibers available for uptake by plants
  • Algae provide organic matter and serve as natural nitrogen fixers
  • Rodents that bore under the fields aerate the soil and improve its water-holding capacity
  • Spiders, centipedes and insects grind organic matter from the surface soil and
  • leave behind enriched droppings.
  • Earthworms contribute to soil fertility
  • They provide aerage, drainage and maintain soil structure.
  • According to Charles Darwin, “It may be doubted whether there are many other
  • animals which have played so important a part in the history of creatures.”
  • The earthworm is like a natural tractor, fertilizer factory and dam, combined!
  • Industrial-farming techniques would deprive these diverse species of food sources and instead assault them with chemicals, destroying the rich biodiversity in the soil and with it the basis for the renewal of the soil fertility.

Shiva, a prominent Indian scientist and activist goes on to detail the costs associated with destroying this natural diversity and traditional farming techniques which recognize this, and replacing this with industrial processes which go against the nature of diversity sustainability.

Bees: crucial agricultural workers

Why Is Biodiversity Important Who Cares_6

Bees provide enormous benefits for humankind as another example.

As reported by CNN (May 5, 2000), “One third of all our food—fruits and vegetables—would not exist without pollinators visiting flowers. But honeybees, the primary species that fertilizes food-producing plants, have suffered dramatic declines in recent years, mostly from afflictions introduced by humans.”

As German bee expert Professor Joergen Tautz from Wurzburg University adds:

Bees are vital to bio diversity. There are 130,000 plants for example for which bees are essential to pollination, from melons to pumpkins, raspberries and all kind of fruit trees — as well as animal fodder — like clover.

Bees are more important than poultry in terms of human nutrition.

-Joergen Tautz interviewed by Michael Leidig, Honey bees in US facing extinction, The Telegraph, March 14, 2007

Researchers are finding reasons for the massive decline hard to pinpoint, but suspect a combination of various diseases, environmental pollution, environmental degradation (leading to less diversity for bees to feed from, for example) and farming practices (such as pesticides, large monoculture cropping, etc).

The link and dependency between plants, bees, and human agriculture is so crucial, the two scientists writing up years of research into the problem summarized with this warning:

Humankind needs to act quickly to ensure that the ancient pact between flowers and pollinators stays intact, to safeguard our food supply and to protect our environment for generations to come. These efforts will ensure that bees continue to provide pollination and that our diets remain rich in the fruits and vegetables we now take for granted.

-Diana Cox-Foster and Dennis van Engelsdorp, Solving the
Mystery of the Vanishing Bees, Scientific American, April 2009

Interdependent marine ecosystem

An example from the seas (originally mentioned here years ago but removed because the link to the story no longer worked), was described by National Geographic Wild in a program called, A Life Among Whales (broadcast June 14, 2008).

It noted how a few decades ago, some fishermen campaigned for killing whales because they were threatening the fish supply and thus jobs.

A chain of events eventually came full circle and led to a loss of jobs:

  • The massive reduction in the local whale population meant killer whales in the region (usually preying on younger whales) moved to other animals such as seals;
  • As seal numbers declined, the killer whales targeted otters;
  • As otter numbers were decimated, the urchins and other targets of otters flourished;
  • These decimated the kelp forests where many fish larvae grew in relative protection;
  • The exposed fish larvae were easy pickings for a variety of sea life;
  • Fishermen’s livelihoods were destroyed.

Large carnivores essential for healthy ecosystems

Three quarters of the world’s big carnivores are in decline. A study in the journal Science, notes that these large animals — such as lions, leopards, wolves and bears — are in decline, due to declining habitats and persecution by humans..

This also has a negative impact on the environment, perhaps partly formed by outdated-views that predators are harmful for other wildlife. As the study notes, human actions cannot fully replace the role of large carnivores because these large carnivores are an intrinsic part of an ecosystem’s biodiversity.

As a simple example, the loss of a large carnivore may mean in the short term the herbivores they prey on may increase in numbers but this can also result in a deterioration of the environment as the herbivores can graze more, largely unchecked. Human intervention to perform the same services would be more costly.

Interdependency vs Human Intervention

Nature can often be surprisingly resilient, often without the need for human interventions. For example, a documentary aired on the BBC (I unfortunately forget the name and date, but in the 1990s) described two national parks in Africa where elephant populations had grown quite large within those artificial boundaries. The usual way to deal with this was to cull the population to try and keep the ecosystem in balance. Without this, elephants were stripping vegetation bare, affecting other animals, too.

A scientist pleaded with park management not to cull and let nature take its course. Being against prevailing thought, they would not agree. In the end they agreed to let one park have its elephants culled, while the other would be left alone.

A few years later, they found the park with the culled population had remained in poor condition. The park where things were left alone has naturally regenerated; the large elephant populations eventually reduced in number as they undermined their own resource base. The natural pace at which this happened allowed vegetation to grow back. Other wildlife grew in numbers and the ecosystem was generally back in balance.

Biodiversity providing lessons for scientists in engineering

For a number of years now, scientists have been looking more and more at nature to see how various species work, produce, consume resources, trying to mimic the amazing feats that millions of years of evolution has produced.

As just one small example, some spiders can produce their silk with a higher tensile strength than many alloys of steel even though it is made of proteins. So biologists are looking at these processes in more depth to see if they can reproduce or enhance such capabilities.

More important than human use or biological interest

Many people may support environmental causes to help preserve the beauty of Nature. However, that is in a strange way, not really a justifiable excuse as it is a subjective, human or anthropomorphasized view.

For many decades, various environmentalists, biologists and other scientists, have viewed the entire earth as a massive living organism or system due to the interdependent nature of all species within it. Some cultures have recognized this kind of inter-relationship for a very long time. Some have termed this Gaia.

While there are disagreements and differences on how this works, it suggests that ecological balance and biodiversity are crucial for all of earth, not just humans.

Putting an economic value on biodiversity

It was noted earlier that ecosystems provide many services to us, for free.

Although some dislike the thought of trying to put an economic value on biodiversity (some things are just priceless), there have been attempts to do so in order for people to understand the magnitude of the issue: how important the environment is to humanity and what costs and benefits there can be in doing (or not doing) something.

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) is an organization — backed by the UN and various European governments — attempting to compile, build and make a compelling economics case for the conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity.

In a recent report, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for National and International Policy Makers 2009, TEEB provided the following example of sectors dependent on genetic resources:

Why Is Biodiversity Important Who Cares_7

In addition, it is estimated that implementing REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) could help

  • Halve deforestation by 2030, and
  • Cut emissions by 1.5 Gt of CO2 per year.

From a cost perspective (p.18), it is estimated that

  • It would cost from US$ 17.2 – 33 billion per year
  • The estimated benefit in reduced climate change is US$ 3.2 trillion
  • The above would be a good return on the initial investment. By contrast, waiting 10 more years could reduce the net benefit of halving deforestation by US$ 500 billion.

In addition, they cited another study that estimated that 3,000 listed companies around the world were responsible for over $2 trillion in environmental “externalities” (i.e. costs that have to be borne by society from ignored factors, or “social costs”). This is equivalent to 7% of their combined revenues and up to a third of their combined profits.

The benefits of these silent parts of our economy is also summarized in these videos by TEEB’s Pavan Sukhdev:

In addition, it is estimated that implementing REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) could help

Halve deforestation by 2030, and
Cut emissions by 1.5 Gt of CO2 per year.

From a cost perspective (p.18), it is estimated that

It would cost from US$ 17.2 – 33 billion per year
The estimated benefit in reduced climate change is US$ 3.2 trillion
The above would be a good return on the initial investment. By contrast, waiting 10 more years could reduce the net benefit of halving deforestation by US$ 500 billion.

In addition, they cited another study that estimated that 3,000 listed companies around the world were responsible for over $2 trillion in environmental “externalities” (i.e. costs that have to be borne by society from ignored factors, or “social costs”). This is equivalent to 7% of their combined revenues and up to a third of their combined profits.

The benefits of these silent parts of our economy is also summarized in these videos by TEEB’s Pavan Sukhdev:

The BBC notes that biodiversity is fundamental to economics. For example,

  • The G8 nations, together with 5 major emerging economies — China, India, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico — use almost three-quarters of the Earth’s biocapacity
  • An estimated 40% of world trade is based on biological products or processes.

Despite these free benefits, it has long been recognized that we tend to ignore or underestimate the value of those services. So much so that economic measures such as GDP often ignores environmental costs.

The economic benefits of protecting the environment are well-understood, even if seemingly rarely practiced:

Numerous studies also show that investments in protected areas generate a cost-benefit ratio of one to 25 and even one to 100 in some cases, [Pavan Sukhdev, from TEEB] said. Planting and protecting nearly 12,000 hectares of mangroves in Vietnam costs just over a million dollars but saved annual expenditures on dyke maintenance of well over seven million dollars.

Stephen Leahy, Environment: Save At Least Half the Planet, or Lose It All, Inter Press Service, November 17, 2009

It has perhaps taken about a decade or so — and a severe enough global financial crisis that has hit the heart of this way of thinking — to change this mentality (in which time, more greenhouse gases have been emitted — inefficiently).

Economists talk of the price signal that is fundamental to capitalism; the ability for prices to indicate when a resource is becoming scarcer. At such a time, markets mobilize automatically to address this by looking for ways to bring down costs. As a result, resources are supposedly infinite. For example, if energy costs go up, businesses will look for a way to minimize such costs for themselves, and it is in such a time that alternatives come about and/or existing resources last longer because they are used more efficiently. “Running out of resources” should therefore be averted.

However, it has long been argued that prices don’t truly reflect the full cost of things, so either the signal is incorrect, or comes too late. The price signal also implies the poorest often pay the heaviest costs. For example, commercially over-fishing a region may mean fish from that area becomes harder to catch and more expensive, possibly allowing that ecosystem time to recover (though that is not guaranteed, either). However, while commercial entities can exploit resources elsewhere, local fishermen will go out of business and the poorer will likely go hungry (as also detailed on this site’s section on biodiversity). This then has an impact on various local social, political and economic issues.

In addition to that, other related measurements, such as GNP are therefore flawed, and even reward unproductive or inefficient behavior (e.g. “Efficiently” producing unhealthy food — and the unhealthy consumer culture to go with it — may profit the food industry and a private health sector that has to deal with it, all of which require more use of resources. More examples are discussed on this site’s section on consumption and consumerism).

Our continued inefficient pumping of greenhouse gases into the environment without factoring the enormous cost as the climate already begins to change is perhaps an example where price signals may come too late, or at a time when there is already significant impact to many people. Resources that could be available more indefinitely, become finite because of our inability or unwillingness to change.

Markets fail to capture most ecosystem service values. Existing price signals only reflect – at best – the share of total value that relates to provisioning services like food, fuel or water and their prices may be distorted. Even these services often bypass markets where carried out as part of community management of shared resources. The values of other ecosystem services are generally not reflected in markets apart from a few exceptions (such as tourism).

This is mainly explained by the fact that many ecosystem services are ‘public goods’ or ‘common goods’: they are often open access in character and non-rival in their consumption. In addition, their benefits are felt differently by people in different places and over different timescales. Private and public decisions affecting biodiversity rarely consider benefits beyond the immediate geographical area…. They can also overlook local public benefits … in favor of private benefits …, even when local livelihoods are at stake, or focus on short-term gains to the detriment of the sustained supply of benefits over time….

Benefits that are felt with a long-term horizon (e.g. from climate regulation) are frequently ignored. This systematic under-valuation of ecosystem services and failure to capture the values is one of the main causes underlying today’s biodiversity crisis. Values that are not overtly part of a financial equation are too often ignored.

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for National and International Policy Makers 2009

In effect, as TEEB, and many others before have argued, a key challenge will be adapting our economic systems to integrate sustainability and human well-being as well as other environmental factors to give us truer costs (after all, market systems are supposed to work when there is full availability of information).

Think of some of the effects this could have:

  • Some industrial meat production, which is very harmful for the environment, may become more expensive
  • For example, as mentioned in the previous link, if water used by the meat industry in the United States were not subsidized by taxpayers, common hamburger meat would cost $35 a pound.
  • Instead of regulation to change people’s habits, markets would automatically reflect these true costs; consumers can then make better informed choices about what to consume, e.g. by reducing their meat consumption or demand more ecologically sustainable alternatives at reasonable cost.
  • A reduction in meat production could protect forests or help reduce clearance of forests for cattle ranches, which would have a knock-on benefit for climate change concerns.
  • Appropriate investment in renewable energy could threaten the fossil fuel industry though they are trying to adapt to that (perhaps slowly, and after initial resistance). But at the same time, governments that are able to use renewable sources are less likely to find themselves spending so many resources in geopolitical areas (e.g. politics, military, terrorist response to Western presence in Middle East, etc) to protect or secure access to fossil fuels.
  • “Cradle to cradle” type of design — where products are designed to be produced and recycled or disposed of more sustainably — could considerably reduce costs for producers and consumers alike, and possibly reduce stress on associated ecosystems.
  • Land that is used to produce unhealthy or marginally nutritious items (e.g. tobacco, sugar, possibly tea and coffee) could be used for more useful or healthier alternatives, possibly even helping address obesity and other issues. (For example, while factoring in environmental costs could make healthy produce more expensive too, expanding production of healthier foods could help contain costs rises to some extent.)
  • etc.

How much would such accounting save? It is hard to know, but there is a lot of waste in the existing system. In the mid-1990s, the Institute for Economic Democracy calculated that as much as half the American economy constituted of wasted labor, wealth and resources (book: World’s Wasted Wealth, II — see sample chapter).

Naturally, those who benefit from the current system may be hostile to such changes, especially if it may mean they might lose out.

This is a clear case of inter-related issues: the health of the environment is strongly tried to our economic choices (i.e. how we use resources), but addressing core short-comings in our economic systems is a crucial political challenge.

More information

For more information on this question, visit some of the following links

  • Scientific American Magazine provides an answer to a reader’s question: “What is the point in preserving endangered species that have no practical use to humans, apart from their aesthetic appeal or their intellectual interest to biologists?”
    The WWF also have sections on species and on biodiversity.
  • Biodiversity: A Matter of Extinction is a briefing from Panos that highlights the problems that have led to an increasingly alarming rate extinctions, this century alone. Although from 1995, it shows how far back the problem was known (and one can infer that we haven’t therefore done much about the problem since).
  • The World Conservation Monitor has sections on biodiversity indicators and biodiversity assessments.
  • Biodiversity and its Value from the Department of the Environment and Heritage, Australia, provides many good insights.
  • “Why Conserve Species” from Nature Magazine provides a good answer to this question. (Unfortunately, since their site redesign, this URL is no longer valid, and to date a new URL cannot be found.)
  • “Life on the Brink” from Earth Magazine, (Kalmbach Publishing Company), April 97 edition, delivers a very interesting answer to why biodiversity is important. (Unfortunately they no longer publish this magazine so the article is no longer online.)
  • Biodiversity Benefits People is an online presentation from the United Nations Environment Program

36 Buddhist Quotes On Life

Originally Published on Inspired-Motivation.com on June 22, 2018 By David & Mike

36 Buddhist Quotes On Life

1 “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Buddha
2 “No one saves us but ourselves.” – Buddha
3 “Understanding is the heartwood of well-spoken words.” – Buddha
4 “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha
5 “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” – Buddha
6 “Purity or impurity depends on oneself.” – Buddha
7 “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” – Buddha
8 “Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.” – Buddha
9 “To keep the body in good health is a duty.” – Buddha
10 “Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.” – Buddha
11 “Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.” – Buddha
12 “In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth.” – Buddha
13 “To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.” – Buddha
14 “A jug fills drop by drop.” – Buddha
15 “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” – Buddha
16 “Those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace.” – Buddha
17 “Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.” – Buddha
18 “Virtue is persecuted more by the wicked than it is loved by the good.” – Buddha
19 “Give, even if you only have a little.” – Buddha
20 “Should you find a wise critic to point out your faults, follow him like a guide to hidden treasure.” – Buddha
21 “Meditate … do not delay, lest you later regret It.” – Buddha
22 “Conquer anger with non-anger. Conquer badness with goodness.” – Buddha
23 “There is nothing comparable to one who is Awakened.” – Buddha
24 “Radiate boundless love towards the entire world — above, below, and across.” – Buddha
36 Buddhist Quotes On Life_2
25 “When watching after yourself, you watch after others.” – Buddha
26 “Resolutely train yourself to attain peace.” – Buddha
27 What we think, we become. – Buddha
28 Our own worst enemy cannot harm us as much as our unwise thoughts. No one can help us as much as our own compassionate thoughts. – Buddha
29 You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger. -Buddha
30 Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship. -Buddha
31 Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. -Buddha
32 There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting. -Buddha
33 You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. -Buddha
34 Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without. -Buddha
35 Patience is key. Remember: A jug fills drop by drop. -Buddha
36 Pain is certain, suffering is optional. -Buddha

Is it Possible for you to Shut Up?

What I learned at a Silent Stay Retreat

mountain view

Photo by imagesthai.com on Pexels.com

Recently I went to Silent Stay Retreat Center. It was very beautiful, peaceful and relaxing. It’s in the hills of Solano County in Pleasant Valley. Once you get here they encourage silence and it was quite refreshing to not feel pressured to talk to the other participants. I found it quite interesting that all of the participants were women except for one of the facilitators.  You do a couple of meditations per day in a group but the rest of the time you can do whatever you like. They recommend you leave your phone in the car so that you can really unplug. I did notice I wasn’t the only person who didn’t abide by this recommendation.  My excuse was because I needed to be available in case of an emergency with my family.  Needless to say it made me aware that I have a real addiction with my phone.

adult air beautiful beauty

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

One of the things we discussed is that with all of the busyness of life, we become so work oriented that we don’t know how to get our balance. The silence is what helps us to get our balance again. It helps your soul to come home and give itself a rest. It’s a beautiful concept.

yin yang

There is a concept of Yin and Yang.  Yang being work, education, doing, achieving, making money, pursuing.  Yin is about being, accepting, allowing, receiving, silence, inner being and soul work. It’s about getting in touch with that little kid inside of you and realizing what your inner child needs. Maybe it needs to play for a bit or get some rest. It also could need to get rid of stuff that is holding you back. Such as holding on to too much stuff.  It’s difficult to listen to your needs without silence.  Your inner child gets drowned out with all of the other noises and sounds.

The thing that was nice about having silence at the retreat, is that I didn’t have to feel that pressure to speak to talk to others. They have notes of paper around so you can communicate with someone if you need to.  It is perfectly fine to be in the same room and not feel responsible to talk to them. That felt very freeing and made me realize how such a simple thing as silence can have a real benefit to our lives.

Western culture is very much goal oriented, analytical, results driven and forces one to “go, go,go.” When really what our soul needs is just some time to sit back under a tree, and enjoy the cool breeze and enjoy the moment. What would happen if we gave ourselves a bit of time?

There was silence but the birds weren’t silent.  In the quiet of the hills, I could hear the beautiful songs of the birds.  There were many wind chimes and other wild life.  Hearing all of the wonderful nature sounds was very peaceful.  There was a beautiful family of turkeys.  The baby turkeys with their mom and dad.  I took the worst picture humanly possible.

bird pattern colorful green

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Of course I was reading an Awesome book when I was there that just completely enhanced the experience.  I took the book by Michelle Paisley Reed, called Manifesting Miracles and for the first time I was actually able to meet my soul.  It was such an amazing experience.  My soul is just so happy.  I mead ridiculously happy.  Kind of reminded me of my puppy when she gets so excited.   I was surprised because there are times when I am feeling stressed, sad and feel rushed.  When I saw my soul was happy, it just made me feel happy and want to spend more time with my happy little soul.  I feel so blessed that I was able to have this experience.

I’ve meditated for years but I’ve never really been silent for days on end and I no longer fear silence.  I wonder what would happen if we would all take the time to just shut up for a couple of days.  And of course my ego wants to judge people and tell them, “You really need to shut up.”  But not only is that not nice, but that’s their choice and we all have choices now don’t we?

Valerie is a Health and Wellness Coach and Yoga Instructor.  She’s recuperating from a 26 year career in law enforcement.  After 9 months retired or repurposed she’s finally allowing herself a chance to truly rest.  She’s learning to listen to that voice inside of her and listening to what it wants.  You can read more about Valerie here.

enlighten-your-lives-valerie-estrella-banner

How To Smell Fresh the Healthy Way

pexels-photo-207518.jpegI get it that we all want to smell good.  We want to cover up any evidence that we are human and that we sweat and sometimes get stinky.  This discussion is about antiperspirants and deodorant that is sold in many drug stores across the United States and world-wide.  I do not use anti-perspirant because there are so many toxic ingredients.

So what is the first reason that I don’t like it? That is because it has aluminum in the ingredients.  Aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer’s.  So this article is not about that.  But there has been research done and I am not going to gamble on my life just so I can not sweat and also take the risk of Alzheimers.  So if you want to take that risk.  Knock yourself out.  We all have this wonderful thing called free will.  And you get to decide how you live your life and if that’s how you want to do it.  That’s your choice.  But I’m making a different decision.

The second reason is that it stops you from sweating.  What is the reason to sweat?  To rid our body of toxins. (more here on that subject).  We must be able to release this from our body and if our under arms are clogged, it can’t get out.  So where does it go?  Gee maybe to your lymph nodes which contributes to breast cancer.  So not only does it contribute to Alzheimer’s but also breast cancer.

Don’t worry dear ones you don’t have to  have to just suffer with the funk?  To be perfectly honest, I use this natural blend I came up with.  It’s actually this natural toothpaste.  I guess it has multiple uses.  I was on vacation and I had forgotten my deodorant at home so I used the toothpaste and it worked great.  I did not smell.

But I do have an actual spray on recipe, if that would make you feel better.  But I have not tried this.  The tooth paste does work but you have to try for you.wild-flowers-flowers-plant-macro-40797.jpeg

Also remember when you make your own products, you are being super eco-friendly.  Because you put it in your own jar and didn’t buy a plastic container. So you are not only saving yourself $$ big time.  But you’re saving the planet.  And that makes you a Super Hero.  And you are sticking up for yourself and refusing to use something that is harmful to your welfare.

pexels-photo-248797.jpeg

So before you put it all over do a little patch test.  Put a small amount on the inside of your forearm to test for a reaction.  If after a couple of hours you don’t see anything then you are golden to use it.

So here is the recipe for the spray on deodorant:

  • 4 ounces witch hazel
  • 20 drops therapeutic-grade tea tree essential oil
  • 20 drops therapeutic-grade lavender essential oil
  • 2 teaspoons organic coconut oil melted
  • glass spray bottle
  1. Boil a cup of hot water and put the hot water in a bowl.
  2. In a smaller cup or bowl (espresso mug) put the witch hazel in the bowl to warm up slightly.  Pour in glass bottle
  3. melt the coconut oil and pour in glass bottle (use a funnel)
  4. Add the essential oils, shake up and you are done.

I know it’s so much easier to just go shopping and buy it.  So there are natural alternatives to antiperspirants that you can purchase.  Here are some good suggestions for you to consider.  Just try to see the possibility of staying healthy.  You really have to be your own best advocate.  If you don’t look out for yourself, who else will do it?

If you take a shower at night, you can put it on before bed because you never know what can happen after the lights go out.

Valerie is a Health and Wellness Coach and a Yoga Instructor.  She is passionate about the environment and knowing that as you heal yourself, you heal the planet.  Valerie is a dancer and is documenting her journey.  She also is recovering from a 26 year career in law enforcement.

Ancient Healing for a Modern World: a Full Color Wellness Gift Book

Originally Published on wholeyoga-ayurveda.com
Ancient Healing for a Modern World

Discover how the inspired lifestyle teachings of Ayurveda can transform your everyday life. This book offers 108 accessible practices from the Ayurvedic pantheon to help you achieve optimal digestion, improve sleep, diminish stress, and find inner balance. These practices make it possible for you to reclaim, maintain and enhance your health at all levels, on any budget, with any kind of schedule.

The Ayurveda Way presents Ayurveda’s paradigm-shifting holistic health perspective in a way that’s intuitive and easy to follow, allowing even beginners to find it simple to use this time-tested wisdom to awaken to your naturally healthy mind and body.

36 practices promote healthy eating, gentle digestion, and radiant natural beauty.

Ayurveda teaches that food, digestion, and even physical beauty are all key components of health.

1 Eat warm, cooked, gently oiled foods.

To kindle the digestive system and help food travel smoothly through the body.

12 Sleep like a baby with spiced milk.

To give your mind a wonderful feeling of clarity, balance, and peacefulness.

19 Cook with love.

Since your emotions and intentions are transmitted into your food.

34 Oil your hair.

To enhance blood circulation and help drive away stress.

25 practices foster a positive mental and emotional state.

Ayurveda teaches that how anything is done — including eating — can be just as powerful as what is being done.

39 Sit in Thunderbolt Pose after meals.

To support digestion and counterbalance hyperacidity, indigestion, and constipation.

49 Light a lamp.

To epitomize the victory of the light of knowledge over the darkness of negative thinking, addictions, destructive habits, and excess emotional reactions.

51 Do something of service, without strings attached.

Because by helping someone else, we automatically become filled with joy.

57 Let go of shame.

And instead channel that energy into healthier feelings of remorse to fuel you toward acting for your own good.

23 practices develop deeper spiritual connections and personal inspiration.

Ayurveda teaches that loving others begins with loving yourself.

64 Give yourself the gift of silence.

To hear the sound of the spiritual and occupy the space in which your own wisdom can flower.

69 Reclaim your inner power in Cobra Pose.

To channel the strength necessary to thrive on the challenging path toward spiritual awakening.

71 Go outside.

To absorb nature’s medicine and learn to yield gracefully to change.

75 Create a personal sanctuary space in your home.

To connect your spirit to the people, places, and things that are personally meaningful to you.

81 Let go of negative thoughts and emotions with a special water practice.

To visualize navigating personal transitions and letting go.

What People Are Saying

“If you want to change the world, this is the book for you because change starts with ourselves. These 108 steps are simple, clear, and doable. This liberated ancient wisdom illuminates the path with clarity and light.”

– Susan Davis, co-author of Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know, Adjunct Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at Columbia University School of Public and International Affairs, founder and former CEO of BRAC USA

“An enlightening and beautifully written book on how to live a balanced life. It’s the perfect gift to type A people like me who think they’re too cool for healthy living.”

– Trabian Shorters, New York Times bestselling co-author of REACH: 40 Black Men Speak on Living, Leading and Succeeding and founding CEO of the 40,000 member BMe Community

“An honest window into Ayurvedic traditions, providing simple, powerful, and effective strategies to choose health.”

– Lara Galinsky, author of Work on Purpose and Be Bold: Create a Career with Impact

Ancient Healing for a Modern World_2

Meet the Author

ANANTA RIPA AJMERA is committed to making Ayurveda understandable and applicable to a diverse, modern audience. She serves as Director of Branding and Yoga Studies at Vedika Global foundation for the living wisdom of Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta, teaches at Ayurveda and yoga conferences, and presents Ayurvedic health improvement, stress management, and meditation sessions for corporate clients including ABC News, Stanford University, and California probation departments. Ananta has studied Yoga and Ayurveda with Acharya Shunya, an eminent traditional Vedic spiritual teacher and lineage bearer, and her writing is popular on MindBodyGreen, Elephant Journal, and The Huffington Post.

The Ayurveda Way releases on April 18th, 2017, and is now available for preorder.

Fight For your Right to Dream

Consider Subscribing to my youtube channel PRETTY PLEASE.  Thank you!!

This time of year it’s very popular to make changes with New Year’s Resolutions and all.  We have great expectations but when it comes time to actually implementing those changes or intentions.  That’s when the difficulty comes in.  I mean you are already super busy with a jam- packed schedule, so how on earth can you find time for one more thing?

This answer is that something has got to leave your schedule or you just have to make that new thing a priority.  Meaning that you do it first before you do that other thing.  Now maybe you like to get on social media.  So make a little agreement with yourself that before you even think about pushing that little Blue square with an f on it that you will do that priority.  After you have done you’re “priority”, you can f away.  I mean get on the blue f as much as you want.

I think the morning routine is an essential part to having a great day.  If you wake up and do some stretches or yoga, breathing, praying or simply have some quiet time for positive affirmations before you start doing all of the stuff to get ready, you can have a much happier day.  So that’s where that blue f comes into play.  This means don’t f your day away.

Other things may have to give in order for you to make your priority.  Maybe you’ll have to take some time off of work in order to give yourself that time.  Is that the end of the world? HELL NO.  Trust me when you are on your death-bed, you’re not going to think, “I should have worked more.”  You might think, I’m glad I followed my heart and my passions.  But you have to fight for your dreams and passions.  (Think of Twisted Sister here: “You’ve got to fight for your right to dre am”).  Yeah that was me singing there.  But you have to be fierce with it.  You have to just say you know what, I’m going to do this and nothing is going to stop me.  Not laundry, not dishes, not TV, not work(don’t get fired though), not your spouse or partner, not your kids. But if you can rearrange things a little bit, I’m sure you can find the time to pursue your dreams.

Twisted Sister i.e. the big hair band of the 80’s that sang Fight For Your Right to Party

This is my quick story with this.  So as a Yoga Instructor, you would think I would be doing yoga everyday and just be super flexible and bendy.  Well last year, I wasn’t.  Life can get in the way.  And it can be difficult to just pull out that yoga mat.  But when I knew I was going to do a dance performance.  I knew that I need to get flexible AF and fast.  So what I did was got my phone, put it on stop watch and did 2 full sun salutes.  It took 6 minutes.  I just decided that every morning before work I was going to give myself 6 minutes for yoga.  And it did help me to get flexible.  I was able to do the splits, believe it or not.    But in any case it all started with me just giving myself 6 minutes in the morning.

splits

2017 not bad for 49 but my daughter snapped this picture fast because I was not enjoying  this. 

Remember Newton’s first law of motion, “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”  So you have to be that unbalanced force and mix things up a little bit.

And it can be scary to change things up because you are letting go of the old way of doing things.  But in no time, those old habits will just be a thing of the past and you can go on with your life knowing that you were able to make one small change.  The next step is to decide  what else you would like to change.

Valerie is a Yoga Instructor and a Health and Wellness Coach. She lives in Northern California with her daughter and puppy.  You may contact her at estrella.valerie@yahoo.com.

PS.  Please follow my Blog and thanks for reading.  XOXO

Check out my Smoothie Recipe here.

Reasons why Smoothies Are Awesome

blue-1326154__480One of the main reasons I love smoothies is that they are so easy to make.  You just put all of the awesome ingredients in the blender, turn it on and then you have an awesome drink within seconds.


In order to make a good smoothie, it’s important to make sure you have the proper equipment.  Personally, I feel the “>Vitamix is the best blender.  It is a little pricey but it has an awesome warranty and it just really blends things superbly.  I’ve had many other blenders and it’s frustrating when you end up with a watery drink and lots of unblended ingredients at the bottom (yuck) of the blender that didn’t get blended.  The Vitamix does not have that issue.  Plus you can make soup and so many other amazing things with them.

With smoothies you can put all of these highly nutritious ingredients that maybe you wouldn’t normally eat such as beets or kale and whip them up with almond milk and drink it and you get healthy food into you fast with minimal effort on your part.

The other thing I recently discovered is that I used to make a smoothie everyday.  Then one day I said to myself, “Self why don’t you make a double batch and then tomorrow you won’t have to make a smoothie?”  A huge light bulb went off and it literally saved a ton of time.  The next day all I had to do was go to the refrigerator and grab my smoothie, shake it up and drink.  It was like someone gave me some extra free time.  I now regularly make a double batch.  I’m all about making things easy.

Also with smoothies, you can eat them on the go.  On your way to work or after you get there, you can drink it at your desk and nobody is going to say, “Eat your breakfast on your own time?” or anything about why you’re eating at work because it looks like you are just drinking water.  So it’s really portable and highly digestible.

girl drinking smoothie

The recipe for the attached smoothie for a double batch is the following:

  • 2 cups Almond Milk, coconut milk, flax milk (Or whatever kind of milk you want although I do not recommend cows milk but obviously use whatever kind you like)
  • 2 Cups Frozen Organic Blue Berries or Cherries
  • 1 Frozen Banana
  • 4 Scoops “>Orgain Organic Protein chocolate (you can also mix up your own powders which I do in the video.)
  • Water (after you add all the ingredients, fill up until you get to 6 cups
  • (If you are feeling adventurous you can throw in a couple of handfuls of kale or spinach

It’s really easy now, turn the blender on and blend it until mixed up and pour into your favorite glass and enjoy

Now if you want to know what those powders are that I put in my smoothie in the video, here they are.  Note that this may not be palatable to everyone but the powders are highly nutritious.

It may take you a minute to get used to the taste but I guarantee it won’t take you long to get used to feeling alert and energized and clear-headed with good digestion.  Enjoy and let me know your thoughts on smoothies.

Valerie is a Yoga Instructor and  Health and Wellness Coach.  She recently retired from a 26 year career in law enforcement.  It’s her hope that people follow their dreams and passions and live a healthy lifestyle.  You can reach here at :estrella.valerie@yahoo.com.

PS:Please subscribe to my Youtube channel.  XOXO

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Go Outside and Trim a Bush Already

My family has a history of having green thumbs.  My grandmother, Lupe, God Bless her soul, had a very green thumb.  She had a beautiful garden.  She could plant something from a twig and it would flourish.  My mother had the same gift.

Now my gardening skills are on a whole other level.  I subscribe to the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittest.  My plants need to be able to survive with very little water and lots of neglect.  This was not really my fault.  I mean I was working full time and also being a fitness instructor and a mom and those plants were like so back burner.  I am pretty sure the only reason they really stayed alive was because my ex-boyfriend used to water them when he came over.  The plants used to sing songs when he came around.

Well I am happy to report that I have now matured to the level of actually watering my own plants and I’m trying to maintain them.  I think they are still a little mad at me over the years of neglect from me.  My lemon tree likes me because it gives me plenty of lemons.  My succulents don’t like a lot of water, so we’re cool too.  I do have some geraniums that are actually quite sturdy but are basically holding on by their roots.  I’ve been watering and trimming them and they are hanging on.  I think I need to move them.  It’s just too much sun.

I used to think of gardening as some form of punishment left over from when I was a kid.  But now I actually like going out there and it’s quite peaceful.  I actually started mowing my own lawn too because I was paying for it and I just decided to buy my own push lawn mower and do it myself.  I mean why pay for something I can do myself.  So I’ve found that it doesn’t take very long to do it.  About 30 minutes.  I’m not all into my lawn like some people.  I mean it’s green enough.  And if I miss certain parts get missed (or my daughter misses certain parts) who cares?  I’ll just do it the next time.  I mean there’s no lawn police coming over anytime soon.

 This is how I felt as a kid, but not anymore.

But it’s really cool being outside and trimming those bushes and the lawn feels therapeutic.  It’s like seeing someone with really long straggly hair and you want nothing more than to go up to them with a pair of scissors and trim it up.  Well that’s the sense of gratification you can get, trimming stuff.  And again if it’s not perfectly straight, who cares?  And you didn’t risk your life from cutting some random person’s straggly beard or hair.

 Imagine how great it would feel to trim this hair.  Now that’s pure satisfaction guaranteed.  Maybe not for the boyfriend though.

Also fringe benefit is getting some fresh air, sunshine, physical exercise and your pocket book is happy too.  But I usually find something else to blow my money on anyway.

All Work and No Play Makes Jack and Jill Hella Dull and Mad

Many are familiar with the words, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” Yes it is the entire text of Jack Nicholson’s book in “The Shining.” But besides that, it does seem to be true that all work and no play can make Jack, Jill and anyone else a dull boy or girl. All work and no play is simply a recipe for not only being dull but being mad as hell. All work and no play can definitely wear on a person and just make them tired, irritable and begin to wonder, “Why the hell am I doing all of this work anyway?” Or “Why am I working hard and everyone else is sitting on their ass?” and can lead to not caring about their work and just feeling depressed about their current situation.

How does one cope when their life seems to be filled with “All work and no play?”

1)Begin to take an inventory about how your time is actually being spent. Time can seem to vanish in the blink of an eye. If you are not paying attention to it, it can be gone before you know it. Take a notebook and write down what you are spending your time on. After you do that for a few days, you should begin to see patterns of how your time is being spent. You might be surprised to see how much time is being spent on TV and or social media.What kind of things do you want to spend your time on? How does Jack want to play? Are there things in your life that you enjoy playing with? Are you finding time for this play? Keep in mind that this play can be anything that brings you joy or that you have fun with. It can be walking your dog, working out, dancing, singing, playing tennis, sailing, vacation, video games, photography, cooking etc. What is it you can do that will kick dullness in the ass? You must know how you can enjoy your time or you can end up not spending it on things you enjoy.

3)Do you have energy vampires or time vampires in your life that are draining you? Sometimes in order to have time for yourself, you have to cut the umbilical cord from energy vampires. They can be people you care about and actually love. But if you aren’t having fun and the people around you are all having fun, it doesn’t seem fair. So it might be time to set some limits and tell people that you care about that you are not going to spend your day off driving them an hour to get their hair done in a fancy salon. Or doing all the laundry (work) while they are kicking back. It’s time to get everyone to pitch in and help out or maybe they can go without clean clothes for a while. Perhaps if the family you have pitched in, you would have some time to play. Watching your daughter mow the lawn can cause great excitement. Remember that children need to be taught how to do all things. So although it can seem like you are treating them like Cinderella by having them do house work, you are actually teaching them essential life skills. So when they grow up and get a job, if their boss needs them to vacuum or mop the floor, they will have some skill in doing this basic life skill. Also they won’t think that they are above doing certain jobs. So don’t be afraid to get your kids to do house work. Especially if they are boys. Boys need to know how to do house work too.

4)You could get help with the work around your house. Some people might think that getting help around your house is a dastardly deed, but it can actually be a life saver. This is going to come as a shock to some people that although you are amazingly smart, talented and strong however, you are not Superman, Wonder Woman, Bat Man, X-Man, Captain America. That means that everybody needs help once in a while. Don’t be afraid to get the help you need around your house so that you can have some fun. Yes it will probably cost you $$. But how much is that stress costing you? If someone offered to clean your house for $100 or you can keep the $100 and clean the whole house yourself on your day off, what would you do? If you are anything like me, it would take hours to clean the house and afterwards, I would be physically tired, drained and maybe cleaning house can be fun to some. However it’s work and it can cause feeling the dullness to start. So yes it is $100 but if that $100 is going to stop you from grabbing an ax and going ballistic like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, then it is safe to say the $100 is well worth the money spent. Think of all the $$, you are saving on attorney bills by simply hiring someone to do some work around your house. Well your house is getting cleaned, you can get a massage or just relax. Now I do understand that many people simply cannot afford $100 which is completely understandable. But many people do have $100 to spend on a house cleaning service but choose however to do the work themselves and instead be mad, tired, irritable and spend their time sharpening that proverbial ax. If you are anywhere near to wanting to sharpen an ax, it’s time to get some professional help. You deserve to chill out and not work so hard all the time.

5)You can ignore the work around the house. That seems like putting a band aid on pile of dog poop to me. But yes you can choose to ignore it. But at some point, that band aid is going to have to be pulled off and that stinky smell is going to be waiting to be picked up. But keep in mind that all of these messes do cause a certain amount of stress just looking at them. So yes you can ignore it but it is recommended to figure out a solution to the pile of dog poopwaiting to be picked up. That way you can get back to the things you enjoy doing and Shine.